Advice to a Friend

Advice to a Friend

This has been a year of many transitions – for myself, for my family, and for far too many of my close friends.

For me, a great new job.

For my family, a new town, a new state, a new set of schools and friends. New beginnings, in return for so many hard goodbyes.

And, while some of these transitions have been trivially easy, others have proven to be – jarringly – life altering.

Several of my friends went through similar transitions this year.

One such friend asked me for advice, when they suddenly – and quite unexpectedly – found themselves back on the job market.

This friend – like the majority of my contemporaries – has the heavy mantle of someone who has lived quite a full life, and the corresponding responsibility of being the primary financial support for their family, squarely upon their shoulders.

Below, I share my advice to them (highly redacted); not because I believe my advice to be the wisdom of the ages, but because this was some of my most personal writing that I did this year, something I hope might help a struggling gentle reader, faced with the same challenges.

Here is that advice to that friend, on what one might do, when the rug is yanked from beneath you.


OK. Finally – a few uninterrupted moments!

I think if I were to be brutally honest, I didn’t work my network early enough in the process, and hung my hopes too early on, on the (too) few jobs I wanted. That was a critical error on my part, and my hubris I think kept me from being in the running in places I should have been in the running for. Lesson learned. 

When those didn’t pan out, and by the time they didn’t pan out, I was so far into the […] decision cycle that I despaired a bit. I went […] months – before landing [my next gig]. My severance covered a lot – but [certainly] not all – of this time.

So, I would counsel not only applying only to the “right job(s)”, but as many “right now” jobs, as you possibly can.

[…] The key is getting in front of the decision makers, and out of the slush pile. When I had any success in getting […] interviews, it was through my connections parallel to, or even outside, the formal search committee process. 

I had just about given up hope of landing anything, when [my next] opportunity came along. It was well outside of my comfort zone – a redneck boy from Old Hickory, TN, working in a conservative Jewish Yeshivah in […] Brooklyn. I took a chance, and to my surprise, they hired me over other candidates.

Professionally, I flourished in about as unlikely a place as one can possibly imagine.

But my family wasn’t [flourishing][…]

Second piece of advice – not every job is worth it, if your family doesn’t benefit.

For me, I was able to cope, by compartmentalizing as much as I could, so that fear and panic didn’t freeze me in place. I took on consulting gigs to get me through when the severance money petered out, submitted and published articles, created a podcast series, and wrangled a social media invite to a NASA event – anything I could do to keep my name “out there”, to keep creating something – anything – and to tread water until something “took.”

My third piece of advice is to keep Asking. Ask for referrals. Ask for introductions. Ask directly to be hired. Don’t let pride be a barrier to doing what is right for your family. Straight up ask for the job(s) you want.

One thing I experienced, that I didn’t really count on, was my loss of identity and authority by virtue of my past – and lost – association with [Y]. I truly loved my job there, as I know you do – and did – at [X]. When it was gone, I struggled with regaining my own personal “brand”, and identity, separate and apart from [X]. I still knew the things I knew, I could still do the things I could do – but then, I had to craft a narrative to describe my path past [Y], and to reassert my claim to my identity […]. You are not your job – but I was surprised by how much of myself was invested into my [past] identity.

My fourth piece of advice – assert and reclaim your individual identity as a leader, outside of your past identit[ies].

I don’t know if any of this helps. I only know that I have been in your shoes, have felt the things you have felt, and I understand. 


May your 2017 be entirely good, gracious, and kind.

You’re Not in the Customer Service Business – You’re in Constituent Services

You’re Not in the Customer Service Business – You’re in Constituent Services

300 Words, 2 Minutes

Being a higher ed administrator – particularly an administrator working in technology – you might naturally assume that you are in the business of supplying basic customer services to the people you serve.

And, mostly, that is a fair assessment.

However, a more accurate portrayal of what higher ed CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs provide might be more cogently defined as constituent services: that is, enabling levels of service that not only address basic requests and needs from your areas of responsibility, but further encourage leaders to become fully engaged advocates for their charges, proactively acting for the good of the group or individual under your leadership.

In government, this most often takes the form of an elected official facilitating requests from their constituents: seeking an approval for a project, filling a pothole, or expediting a passport request.

In higher ed, successful CIOs do much the same. The job isn’t just much fixing problems (though that is critical) or setting strategic vision (even more…

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Entertainment and Experience – the “New Engagement”

Entertainment and Experience – the “New Engagement”

Institutions, and individual instructors, who embrace this new reality, will substantially differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

300 Words, 2 Minutes

Think about how you now “consume” your favorite entertainment.

It’s not enough to merely “watch” Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Westworld, or The Walking Dead.


You binge watch. You stream.

You follow the show’s Twitteraccounts. Lurk their Facebookpages. Troll – or be trolled – on Reddit, and the show’s sub-Reddits.

Obsessing over every leak, spoiler, and clue, as to what will occur next in the storyline; divining Instagram and Snapchat feeds like ancient augurs, sifting through entrails, teasing out possible glimpses of things to come.

We no longer sit back passively, and absorb.

We engage. And we participate.

We create podcasts. Create YouTubeChannels. Write blogposts. Follow the latest recaps.

Our entertainments are now multivalent experiences; where being unengaged, means being left out.

Where FOMO– the fear of missing out – makes – or…

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Being Mindful,While Not Yelling At You to Get Off My Lawn

Being Mindful,While Not Yelling At You to Get Off My Lawn

300 Words, 2 Minutes

Seems like I can’t look anywhere lately, without being told to be “mindful.”

“Mindful? You mean, paying attention?”

No – being present in the moment.

“Well… I am here.”

No – critically examining each thought and moment, without being critical of the rightness, or wrongness, of your way of thinking of that given moment.

[Here, my head explodes].

Look. I kinda get it. Reflect upon what’s happening, as it’s happening, without judgement. Learn to be accepting. Engage.

And, I think I actually have experienced something, akin to zen, a few times in my life, while in the act of creation: writing a network handler, overnight, under deadline, awakening the next morning to some of the best code I had written to then (and perhaps, since), but not really remembering all the details of exactly how I had done it… spending days working through a thorny technical problem, before having a Eureka! moment…

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Permanent Impermenance

Permanent Impermenance

While walking this morning in the pre-dawn quiet, I was listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson talk about the important take aways from the Moon landings; namely, that the moon was formed by a Mars-sized object obliquely hitting the Earth eons ago.

And it got me to thinking, about all the knowledge that is now commonly accepted, uncovered or discovered since the time I was born.

The origin of the Moon (1969-1972). The cause of the demise of the Dinosaurs (1981). The location of the Titanic (1985). The nature of Quasars (early 80s). Too many wonders to enumerate.

But enough to recognize, that as much as we know, or think we know, we can anticipate new and game-changing discoveries racing at us daily.

Simply being able to look at images from Ceres, Pluto, and Charon this year – as well as the closeups from the Rosetta mission – should totally convince us we’re living in amazing times.

Yet – we’ve practically become inured to the wondrous and the incredible.

We walk around with the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. We communicate with each other instantaneously from the far reaches of the globe. We know where we are – to the very meter – through the magic of global positioning satellites. Our cars have cameras, telemetry, and satellite radio.

Why aren’t we more gobsmacked by all – or any – of this?

What would my dad have thought, back in 1962, if he had been given my Buick to drive, or my iPhone to use, or my MacBook to watch a video?

It would have been miraculous.

Today? It’s merely mundane.

As much as we think we’ve seen it all, twenty years from now, our children will wonder what we would have thought of their world. Forty years from now, our grandkids will think the same.

I think about the Buddhist idea of Impermanence – that our existence is transient, evanescent, inconstant.

Our sense of wonderment and ability to be amazed certainly is.


Reading about the gas pipeline sending the East Coast into a panic, points out the razor edge we walk, between complacent sleepwalking through our daily routine, and realizing our technological cocoons are paper thin.

And as impermanent as running water.

Obsolescence, Irrelevance, & Failing to Dream “Big Enough”

Obsolescence, Irrelevance, & Failing to Dream “Big Enough”

Yesterday saw the announcement of a coming new iPhone (the iPhone 7), with much of the attention across social media given over to the lack of a headphone jack, coupled with expensive new wireless earbuds (“Air Buds”, @ $160 a pair), that will soon be lost in a washing machine near you.

“Courageous?” Or simply idiotic? I can see it both ways.

I mean, I can’t keep up with my wired earbuds, much less multiplying them by two, and then disconnecting them.

One thing it definitely is, though, is audacious. Moxie, chutzpah, and cojones are also words that come to my mind.

Now, traditionally, Apple has been a company that “dreams big.” But – are wireless earbuds “dreaming big” – or just derivative? Will these new accessories soon find their way into the obsolescent dust bin of digital history (along with the 8 track tape, VHS, and – soon – optical media)?

Hey – if I knew that, I wouldn’t be writing this at 6 am; I’d be shorting Apple.

I’m not one to judge; I can look back at many times in my professional life, when I thought I was dreaming big, but soon realized that I hadn’t dreamed quite big enough.

A few years ago I did a technology refresh, one that was a long time coming, and very much needed. It was sizeable in scale – and cost – and so, high visibility, and high stakes.

The refresh came off great. Our users were happy, and our students were happy.

But: we soon came to realize that we had neglected to accommodate an emerging cable standard – HDMI – that would have simplified our classroom AV support, and ended up limiting the number of devices we needed to support without buying additional adapters.

It’s hard – and embarrassing – to go back and retrofit a retrofit that you just completed.

We had not failed to “dream big.” We had failed to “dream big enough.”

In either of my roles as COO or CIO, I’m continually tasked with assessing project proposals that I try to judge not only on their merits, but also on the anticipation of the inevitable change of “facts on the ground”, that will determine whether the decision to move forward will be deemed innovative – or merely irrelevant.

Prescience is in very limited supply among us mere mortals.

All one can really do is try to act with the best facts available at the time, know as much as you can about your audiences and your working environment, and trust your instincts.

We can recognize obsolescence clearly, when it’s staring us in the face, in the immediate now – but we’re blind to its lurking presence, merely a few steps into the future.

Dream big.

But dream big enough.

How to Use Youtube Live Streaming for Free Lecture Capture | Eduhacker

How to Use Youtube Live Streaming for Free Lecture Capture | Eduhacker

Don’t panic, there is still a free lecture-capture solution for everyone.

Source: How to Use Youtube Live Streaming for Free Lecture Capture | Eduhacker

Where No One Will Be a Rank Stranger to Me

Where No One Will Be a Rank Stranger to Me

Go to any reunion, or homecoming, or alumni weekend, and you’re bound to hear the following phrase, in some variant:

“This isn’t the place I remember!”

Well, of course it isn’t.

Time marches on.

Our experiences are formed not only by the place where we had our first kiss, or discovered that we weren’t the center of the universe, or found love, but also by the times we lived through, and the people we lived through them with.

Our experiences of place as an unchanging anchor in our lives is a trick of our minds; they are mere snapshots of our passage through time, not indelibly frozen for eternity.

A favorite song of mine, several decades old now, is the Rank Stranger, by the Stanley Brothers. It’s a song about homecoming: but bitterly finding home is no longer home, with family and friends having long moved on, while youth has given way to the cares and toils of life. It touches upon the truth of it – that place is only where your experiences happened; but dear friends, family, and loved ones make place truly what is longed for: home.

They knew not my name, and I knew not their faces. I found they were all rank strangers to me.

These are the thoughts I think of, when I pass through where I grew up. Connecting with old friends. Telling the old stories. Re-feeling the joys and the regrets.

It leaves me wanting. Not sad. Just recognizing – and acknowledging – that I am only passing through, while someone else’s experiences of home are being made afresh.

This knowledge, however, is not an onerous burden; it is a charge – a charge to be a good steward for the experiences created surrounding me.

To build a good home for my boys. To work on my marriage. To foster a great working environment for my employees and colleagues. To craft exceptional beauty and creativity in everything I do and say.

So that Everyone. AnyoneSomeone. Will one day look back, and say, “this is the place that I remember.”

Where no one will be a rank stranger to me.




I’m excited to (finally!) announce, that I am starting a new step along my professional journey as the new Executive Vice-President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer at Drury University, in Springfield, MO.

I begin August 1.

In addition to being tasked with supporting the planning, strategy, and oversight of technology on campus, I will be responsible for the operation and stewardship of some 1.2 million square feet of facilities under roof, across Drury’s 50-acre campus in Springfield.

As much as I am excited to be arriving in Southwest Missouri (and just a few hours away from friends and colleagues in Central Arkansas), I am equally saddened to be leaving our life here in the Northeast.

Working in Brooklyn has truly been one of the most unique, transformative, and enriching experiences of my life to date. I highly recommend living and working in the City – at least once in your life – to everyone, given the chance to do so. “Broadening your horizons” doesn’t quite capture the gestalt.

Finally, to the members of the board, colleagues, mentors, families and friends of the Yeshivah of Flatbush: please accept my heartfelt appreciation for the opportunity to serve an exceptional school, to work with a staff committed to academic excellence, and to being challenged – mentally, intellectually and even physically – each and every minute I stepped onto campus. Thank you: שלום.




Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Taking Aim

by Roger Pynn

Journalists, journalists-turned-public relations people and lifelong PR folks seemed aghast on social media yesterday when news broke that Florida Today announced plans to cease publication of the Central Florida Future, the newspaper targeting University of Central Florida students.

Serving the nation’s second-largest university with a population in excess of 61,000, many couldn’t get their arms around how this could happen.  After all, the Future started out as the on-campus, university-sponsored newspaper at my alma mater just two years short of half a century ago. The Central Florida news and PR community is heavily stacked with alumni from UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication … many of whom cut their journalistic teeth reporting and editing at the paper.

The Future became part of Florida Today in 2007 when its parent company Gannett purchased it after more than a decade of private ownership following a move off campus in…

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